If you’re unfamiliar with Moroccan food, this pastry-wrapped parcel of dangerous deliciousness is basically the gateway drug to cheese-stuffed briouates (pastries), grilled fish slathered in piquant chermoula (marinade) and tasty tagines (slow-cooked stews). Once you’ve had your first spicy bite of chicken pastilla from the Palais Amani hotel, you’ll be winging your way to Fez – Morocco’s foodie idyll. Arrive hungry and head straight to this lavish, tile-clad riad where, in addition to its Medina-to-menu food at restaurant Eden, you’ll find cooking classes. To whet your appetite for Fez, here’s the scoop on that pastilla…
PALAIS AMANI’S CHICKEN PASTILLA
Source ingredients from your nearest souk or supermarket:
– 1.6kg of chicken, cut into quarters
– Two onions, finely chopped
– One teaspoon of ground ginger
– Two teaspoons of ground cinnamon
– Half a teaspoon of saffron threads
– A generous sprinkling of chopped flat-leaf parsley and coriander for each piece of chicken
– Two tablespoons olive oil and a little extra to drizzle over the chicken
– 50g of butter
– Two tablespoons of caster sugar
– 175g of blanched whole almonds, roasted and chopped
– Six raw eggs, beaten
– 13 sheets filo pastry
– Icing sugar and an added pinch of ground cinnamon for dusting over the pastillas
Put the chicken, onions, ginger, saffron, herbs, oil and butter into a large saucepan with a teaspoon of cinnamon. Add 750ml (or three cups) of water or just enough to cover chicken. Bring to a simmer over a low-to-medium heat, then cover and cook for one hour or until the chicken is tender.
Remove the chicken from pan and, when cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the skin and bones. Simmer the shredded chicken in the remaining herbs, oil and water, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has reduced to 500 millilitres (or two cups). Bring the pan from the boil and leave to one side until cool.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Combine the sugar, nuts and remaining cinnamon in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the cooked chicken, eggs and the remaining sauce from the cooking pan.
Oil a 23cm-wide, 5cm-deep cake tin. Lightly brush a filo sheet with oil, lay a second sheet on top and place in the tin, so the sheets just overlap the edge of the tin on one side. Repeat this five times, arranging each double layer at a slight angle to the previous layer, so the pastry case starts to look like the spokes of a wheel.
Over the first layer of the prettily patterned filo base, scatter half the sugary cinnamon nut mix, then top with chicken and sauce, then another layer of nuts. Fold in the overhanging pastry, tucking any excess down inside the pan; then brush the remaining filo sheet with oil, fold in half and place on top, tucking in the excess. Brush with oil again, and bake for 35 minutes or until the pastilla turns a tempting golden hue. If available, switch to a fan oven, cover the pie with baking paper and bake for a further five minutes to brown the sides and base.
Serve the pastilla fresh from the oven, after dusting with icing sugar and cinnamon. Bask in the rapturous praise of your admiring guests.
For more flavoursome finds, explore our boutique hotels and riads across Morocco.